On She Goes

Sweet Treats: Asian Pastry Desserts in Chicagoland

Baked delights from ube cake to pandan eggette.

Janaki Jitchotvisut
Janaki Jitchotvisut
March 14, 2018
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Chicagoans love a lot of things. The city is known for its deep-dish pizza, hot dogs, pop, and all those Old Style signs everywhere. But then there are the things you have to live here to know about. Like Harold’s Chicken Shack (and which location is your favorite?) and the two Albany Park Chinese-Korean chefs who invented the Korean chicken wings that everyone across the country knows and loves.

Savory dishes are this town’s calling card in most people’s minds, but that’s far from all we have to offer. Sure, it might not get written up in all the tourist guides, but Chicagoans have our own voracious appetites for sweets, and these amazing Asian American pastry shops definitely hit all the right notes. From Filipino ube cake to Taiwanese pandan eggette, these are five of the best places for desserts in Chicago (and a short drive outside it) to whet your appetite for first-rate baked delights.

The famous purple velvet cake at Jennivee’s Bakery.
photo by Janaki Jitchotvisut

Jennivee’s Bakery
3301 N Sheffield Ave

This Filipino-American hotspot in Boystown is the late-night cakery of your dreams. Unlike most pastry shops, it’s open noon to midnight Monday through Friday and stays open until 2am on Friday and Saturday. (For early birds, it’s open at 10am on Saturdays and Sundays, so you can have cake for brunch if you must.) Owner Jen Vailoces wanted to shift the image of cute Southern ladies baking beautiful, airy chiffon cakes to something fresh. Enter her bestselling Purple Velvet, which is made of ube chiffon cake, ube mousse, young coconut macapuno strings, and ube crumbs. For mango lovers, her mango cake is your dream come true (not too sweet, bursting with mango flavor, and absolutely perfect). Serving Dark Matter coffees and BYOB, this place is like your perfect birthday party all grown up.

La Patisserie P
1050-52 W Argyle St

Mix Asian flavors—like beautiful egg tarts and pillowy steamed bao featuring a variety of fillings—with French pastry techniques—think laminated doughs and precise opera cake construction—and you get something magical. Chef Peter Yuen’s wedding cakes are the stuff of legend: heavenly, light textures, structural perfection, and never overly sweet. But it’s his almond croissants in this cozy bakery that have regulars lining up on their way to the Red Line every morning. If you’re craving savory, there’s always fresh BBQ pork or light-as-air curry chicken buns to tide you over.

Snow Junkie.
photo by Janaki Jitchotvisut

Snow Junkie Café
3759 N Racine Ave

I’m sorry, did you say you wanted a pandan eggette and some shaved mango snow with tapioca balls and gummy bears on top? Say no more, fam. This Wrigleyville snack stop will whip up just the thing. The basic eggette is like a waffle with a light vanilla flavor, but you can choose pandan or chocolate or get crazy with red velvet. If candy toppings aren’t enough, you can also choose to fill your eggette with M&Ms or another candy of choice as it cooks for an extra kick of sweetness. Ice cream is a standard part of every eggette’s presentation, or you can go super deluxe and opt for shaved snow instead. Flavors on both ice cream and snow rotate daily. Every eggette comes garnished with sweet toppings of your choice and two Pocky sticks.

Fresh tea and coffee drinks abound to wash your sweet treat down. Born in Taiwan, made in Chicago, and conveniently located near Wrigley Field for all your post-ballgame needs.

The case at Mont Blanc.
photo by Janaki Jitchotvisut

Mont Blanc Pastry
274 E Algonquin Rd
Arlington Heights

I’m pretty sure the word “ethereal” was invented solely to describe the cakes that Mont Blanc bakes. This Japanese American bakery bakes the lightest, fluffiest green-tea cake you’ll ever taste. Their signature Montblanc, a heavenly chestnut cream cake, is a must if you love chestnuts, and their mocha cake is incomparable and made of the lightest, fluffiest mingling of chocolate and coffee ever to grace your lips.

We also need to talk about their Gâteau Mille Crêpe. This French classic “thousand crepe cake” gets a visually stunning and gustatorily exquisite matcha update that you simply must experience. Cash only, but bring extra so you can take home some fine Lupicia teas to enjoy with your pastries.

Handsome Bakery & Café
204 E Golf Rd

Come for the White Cloud Latte, leave with an armload of delightful and delicate pastries and cakes and a smile. Try the Rose Yogurt Cake, which is almost too exquisite to eat. Don’t forget to enjoy a fresh cream castella or soboro bun with your coffee! Castella cake may have Portuguese roots, but it has found love among baked-goods enthusiasts across Japan and South Korea. Meanwhile, soboro—also known as Korean streusel bread—is always a welcome accompaniment to your favorite hot beverage.